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The Libertarian Virtues

November 15, 2016

This was very quickly typed up whilst waiting for a plane and is still very much in draft form. Constructive criticism, as always, is very welcome. 

Like many classical liberals, I have spent the past several months engaged in some degree of soul-searching as to the reasons behind the growing rise of both the forces of national populism and long discredited socialist central planning.

I have already articulated some of my thoughts as to how we can best articulate a positive agenda for the future here, and since delivering that speech, have further developed these ideas, which I hope to write up shortly and I feel fills in the ‘missing piece’ that that last argument was lacking.

However, in analysing where we are going wrong, it occurs to me that I have been missing a critical component. In addition to us attempting to improve on the marketing of our ideas, we need to focus on becoming better ambassadors for them. While related, this is a very different challenge, for it requires us to strive to become better people. As such, I thought what my weaknesses were, where I feel I have gone wrong, and what I should do to become a better ambassador for our ideas.

In the catechism of the Church of Rome, there is the idea of the Seven Virtues – personal qualities and character traits that everyone should strive to achieve. Therefore when looking at the traits that I should seek to achieve, I have chosen to frame them as the seven libertarian virtues. Let me know what you think of my attempt to create a little bit of libertarian self-help.

The Virtue of Empathy: When we see people struggling as the result of policy changes, accept it and empathise with it. We can not deny that globalisation and the freeing up of markets has caused social problems. While these are beneficial in the long run, the create losers. When someone has lost his job as a manufacturing plant has closed due to cheap imports, when a farmer has committed suicide due to falling milk prices, it is little succur to show an academic economic textbook about how we will be all better off. And in particular, if you well educated, cosmopolitain, and live in a city – like almost all libertarians – remember that not everyone is like you. In the United States, mortality rates for middle-aged white Americans have risen since the turn of the millennium, fuelled by suicide, drug overdoses, and liver disease, as well as heart disease and diabetes and are towns in the Midwest where more than a third of working-age men are employed fewer than 20 hours a week. This is shocking – which is why people are lashing out. Empathise, understand, and, if necessary, concede a point. It is far better to concede some points – even if you are in the right – and achieve a bond with someone that may lead to incremental change – than to alienate someone for ever.

The Virtue of Understanding: If people are opposed to policies you support, understand why. Do not consider them racist. Do not consider them ignorant. Understand why – and force yourself into a position where you can articulate their views. If you can not mount a coherent argument for tarrifs, for high taxes, for banning all immigration – then you will be unable to defend your beliefs adequately because you will never be able to understand who you are debating with. Once you understand others, only then can you start on convincing them.

The Virtue of Acceptance: I have never seen sexism in the liberty movement. In the same way I have almost never seen racism in society. Yet when almost every single libertarian female talks to me about sexism she has felt in the movement, there becomes a point where it is utterly ridiculously daft for me to deny this simply because I can not see it. Because clearly there is a problem – and perception is reality. Similarly, while I can not see racism, the fact that everyone I know from a minority has experienced racial abuse means we can not simply deny that it exists. Of course, this does not mean becoming a radical social justice warrior claiming structural oppression and the like. However, it does mean that when we have a dialogue with people, we acknowledge and accept their experiences – even if we do not see it ourselves. As much as the phrase ‘lived experience’ may make me cringe, there really is something to it.

 The Virtue of Philomathia: Learning is not limited to reading libertarian texts. If anything, their utility is limited – there are only so many variations that “freedom is good” can take.  Rather, we need to focus on learning more of the world around us – and its people. Libertarians need to focus on reading history (There is a reason the US founders were obsessed with the fall of Roman and Greek Democracy; why Burke’s views were shaped by the French Revolution; and how can we understand the cycles of history without seeing how Berlin was the most liberal city in Europe of the 1920’s and what happened just a decade after), theology (like it or not, religion is a powerful force in the world, and understanding it through its own eyes is essential to understanding both current and historical trends), as well as sociology, anthropology, and cultural criticism. Without properly understanding the world and its context, we create our own ideological bubble, our own ivory tower, divorced from reality and popular experiences.

The Virtue of Inclusion: The liberty movement is far too small for us to argue amongst ourselves over who is the One True Libertarian, or the distinctions between Rothbard. Hayek or Mises and Friedman, or socially conservative and more liberal minded people in their private lives. If we want to seriously reduce the size of the state, then the only chance we have is to work together and direct our attention on those who seek to enlarge it. Once we have achieved libertopia – then we can fight amongst each other.

The Virtue of Charity: If we wish to argue that civil society is far better to provide welfare than governments, should we not seek to lead by example? I commend people like Nat, Brian, Lee and others for the work they have done for non-profits and trying to help people in need, but should we not all seek to do the same far more than we already are? For how else can we demonstrate that non government welfare will actually work unless we put in the hard work ourselves? And, perhaps more importantly, how will we be able to understand the problems people face without us actually seeing them directly, rather than seeking to intuit them from a purely theoretical understanding

The Virtue of Vision: People are not convinced by reason or by arguments. If we wish to convince them, we need to connect on an emotional level (hence the virtue of empathy) but similarly be able to present a positive vision of society. To do this we need to understand where they are coming from, accept it, be a positive role model for our solution (hence the virtue of charity) but most importantly present a vision of the future. And how while things might be bad for them, it is our vision that will lead to a better future for their children. Most people will not be affected by how bitcoin or the sharing economy will change the way business is done. But they do care about leaving a better world. Create this positive vision for them – and in doing so incorporate all the virtues I have previously articulated.


Why I Shall Never Support Ted Cruz

December 28, 2015

When choosing support for a political candidate, character matters. No matter how much you may agree on matters of policy, there are some people who have proven themselves so morally and ethically debased that voting for them can never be a viable option.

One such person is Senator Ted Cruz.

This may surprise some people. On many issues, after all, it would seem that Senator Cruz would be an ideal candidate. He has consistently argued for shrinking government, has sound economic principles, and says most of the right things. Yet he remains someone I would never support, and here is why: Senator Cruz has repeatedly and consistently acted in a manner that demonstrates that he simply lacks the most basic, most fundamental character traits needed to lead, revealing himself in the process to be a truly despicable individual.

It is a matter of public record that Senator Cruz has deliberately sabotaged efforts to cut spending just so he can fundraise off the failure to cut spending. He has consistently thrown his allies and supporters under the bus when it suited him. He has changed his stances frequently depending on how the political winds are shifting, and then blatantly lied about it. As in actually, flat out, lied (lying being, it seems, a rather frequent habit of the Senator’s. As is rewriting history and discarding former allies).  In the words of Jennifer Rubin “This really is a guy who will say whatever needs to be said at any moment to further his political prospects”.

To use just one example, his actions in leading opposition to the Vitter Amendment is, in the words of Americans for Tax Reforms’ Ryan Ellis, “ a classic case study in how this entire affair was bungled by a few narcissistic conservative groups and senators, who actually did quite well from the shutdown.  They themselves have profited handsomely in emails and donations, as reported in multiple press outlets. But the damage they caused may have inflicted a mortal wound to the cause of Obamacare repeal”.

To be clear – Senator Cruz deliberately torpedoed an effort to reduce government spending, just so he could make millions.

Can anyone who believes in smaller government truly support someone like this?

But what started it all for me was how, in September last year, he committed what Christian conservative writer writer Pascal Emmanuel Goby rightly described as “the most cynical and despicable political stunt of the year, which is certainly saying a lot.” An stunt for which I personally knew conservatives present in the room who walked in Ted Cruz supporters, and walked out saying they would rather spoil a ballot than vote for him.

This is, of course, simply one act of political bastardy – one act of many committed by the Senator – but it is one that I feel is telling, and deserves to be more widely shared.

But first, some context.

In September of 2014, as ISIS was sweeping through the Levant massacring Christians in its path in its genocidal terror, a new advocacy group, In Defence of Christians, pulled together what was “a major logistical miracle. At the time, ISIS’s genocidal campaign had not yet attracted significant mainstream attention, and this summit was designed to combat that. “Somehow they managed to get all the Patriarchs of the Middle East — Catholic & Orthodox of all the various rites, as well as evangelicals and others– to meet together to present a unified voice in Washington as advocates for their people across the Middle East.”

The Summit, held in Washington DC on September 9-10, was the largest gathering of Middle Eastern Christian leaders in centuries. For the first time Catholics, Orthodox, Assyrians, Copts, Evangelicals were together, united in the common goal of protecting their flocks from being butchered and slaughtered by the ISIS hordes.  The mood was one of “the ecumenism of the martyrs,” in Cardinal Sandri’s phrase, with all participants willing to put aside for a time their political and theological differences for the sake of something more important: defending  defenceless and persecuted Christians around the world.  “

And the conference was succeeding beyond anyone’s wildest expectations, with millennia-old conflicts and enmities set aside for the common good. And it was not just leaders who were there, many were victims of persecution who had fled their ancestral homes on pain of death; as one attendee noted:  “ I sat next to an Iraqi man whose family had been turned out of their homes and had to flee the area their people had settled for thousands of years. 

Enter Ted Cruz. Senator Cruz, who was invited to deliver the Keynote address. (more…)

Wedding Videos

December 19, 2014

As this is theoretically my personal blog, and not solely my thoughts on politics, to keep a record for posterity, I thought I would upload a video of our wedding, and, courtesy of Senator Bob Day and his mobile, a video of some of the Russian Dancers we had as entertainment at the Dinner Reception 🙂

Lessons From Victoria: The Perils of Internal Parliamentary Centralisation

December 9, 2014

Amidst the navel gazing and blame-shifting in the fallout of the disastrous Victorian State Election result, one simple story has so far escaped media attention.

This is an issue that cuts through the spin and goes to the heart of the Victorian Liberal’s woes – and, more importantly, is a cautionary tale for the Abbott Government – one they ignore at their peril. For those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

Few people remember the radical and historically unprecedented changes that Victorian Liberal Premier Ted Baillieu made to staff selection mechanisms upon his election.

And why would you? The internal hiring processes of a government is hardly front page news.

But what was instituted really was revolutionary. Under the Westminster system, Members of Parliament traditionally had the right to determine their staff. Under the new system, however, all Ministers had to have their staff cleared by Premier’s office in what was then dubbed the “Star Chamber”, run by factional warrior Michael Kapel. The result was brutal – hundreds were denied positions, with only Yes-Men let through, staff guaranteed to not challenge the head office line.

The Victorian election result was the inevitable outcome. Too focussed on the goals of appeasing the Leader’s Office, staff were either unwilling or unable to give the advice needed to enact meaningful reform for Victoria. Short term goals trumped the long term, and, with talent and political insight being almost guaranteed as a veto quality in job applications, despite a few good staff slipping through, is it any wonder after 4 years of a sclerotic yes-man regime, that the Victorian electorate voted as it did?

More disturbingly – and perhaps more tellingly – is that this practice of refusing all but yes-men has spread Federally, and even expanded in scope.

Following the previous Federal election, rules issued by the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin, set out that – not just ministerial staff, but all parliamentary staff, had to be cleared by the Leader’s office.

Just think about this for a moment. Every backbench constituent officer had to go through an approval process by the Prime Minister’s Office.

What sort of a mentality do you think this has created in the Federal Parliamentary Wing of the Liberal Party?

When anyone who might ask questions about a policy, or question a communication, is automatically ruled out of an advisory role, is it any wonder that the Liberal Party is in the shape it is?

Granted, a number of very capable and talented staff did get through. However, when the word was out that “the fix was in” and dissenters wouldn’t be approved, is it any wonder that hundreds didn’t even bother to apply?

The Liberal Party is built on principles of individualism and free markets, yet they have seemed to have recently embraced a command-and-control style of government for their party, which has locked out anyone capable of issuing any sort of meaningful advice. Despite some very capable staffers, the simple fact that they exist at the whim of the Prime Minister’s Office will obviously stifle genuine criticism or lead to proper advice.

For the Liberal Party to once again attain the political ascendency Federally, it needs to learn the lessons from the Victorian election – not just in terms of policy, but in terms of how a government should operate. And allowing diverse views in your staff should be at the top of that list.

10 Steps To Guarantee Libertarian Success Online

November 23, 2014

So! You’re a libertarian!


As you begin your journey to promote liberty online, and become a fully-fledged libertarian keyboard warrior, here are a few simple lessons to make it easier and more effective for you.

Every single one of these is derived from extensive research and study of the online libertarian community and as such, is guaranteed to be the only way you  should act to be able to ensure libertopia comes to pass:

1) Insult and patronise anyone who disagrees with you: Once you have insulted someone, and publically demonstrated your intellectual superiority through a trite facebook post, they will have no choice but to agree with you and convert. The beauty of this strategy is that you don’t even need to engage in any sort of argument or debate; simply write up the insult, and watch the conversions flow! Bonus points if you can call their argument a ‘fallacy’ (no need to back it up, just using the word itself will ensure you win). Be as “edgy” as possible, and make sure you go out of you way to insult everything your opponent believes in, because then they will think you are ‘cool’ and will start agreeing with you.

 2) Never read anything you disagree with: Why bother exploring other points of view, or trying to see the point your ideological opponents are trying to make? What is the point, when, while talking to them, a simple insult (see rule 1) can suffice? Limit yourself to memorising key libertarian texts, and never venture beyond. And just in case you are ever accidentally exposed to another point of view, remember: STRAWMAN STRAWMAN STRAWMAN! Statists can never defend against what they don’t actually believe, so spare  yourself the trouble of learning what they think, and strawman instead! It’s a foolproof plan!

3) NEVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES develop an interest or social circle outside of libertarianism: having personal interests, or ‘friends’, will only distract you from spreading the libertarian message. What’s worse, being friends with non-libertarians will make you see them as human, and, once you see their point of view, will make you weak and willing to compromise with them. The entire concept of friendship is clearly a communal plot to attempt to destroy individualism, and must be opposed with all our power.

4) Explain to everyone they would be a libertarian if they knew more: It is obvious that the only way for people to become libertarian is for them to spend 3 years studying Austrian economics. Until someone has done that, why even bother taking them or anything they say seriously about politics?

5) Learn the power of copy-paste: Why waste your time thinking for yourself and coming up with an argument, when you can simply copy-and paste a section from Rothbard? We can never improve on the libertarian greats from the past, so why even try? RELATED: Use the power of CAPS LOCK: Show people you are SERIOUS! Capitalise all important words like FREEDOM in anything you write!

6) Libertarianism demands insulting social mores and other people: Free speech is not an abstract concept. Libertarianism demands we prove it every day. We don’t only have a right to offend people, we, as libertarians, have a duty. If you don’t exercise your free speech to go out of your way to offend people, then they clearly won’t respect you and will never become libertarian. If you don’t act as a total jerk, then you are not a true libertarian.

Also, If you’re not living life as a libertine, taking advantage of every freedom you may want, and aren’t smoking crack every day, then you are a flake. Because being a libertarian means doing everything a libertarian government would permit. Without exception. Anyone who tries to argue for the importance of social mores and norms of conduct is only pretending to be a libertarian.

7) Use libertarian jargon when talking to non-libertarians: It is essential when talking to non-libertarians that you drop as many references to the NAP, ‘arbitrary lines on a map’, and ‘criminals in uniform’ as possible. By constantly using language that no-one you speak to will ever understand, they will obviously see the superiority of libertarian thought and convert. This is especially effective if you can throw in derogatory terms like “sheeple” and “lamestream media”

8) Fight the most extreme battles you can find: If you aren’t spending your time arguing for polygamous couples to own nuclear weapons to defend their heroin processing plant, why do you even bother?

9) Dedicate your life to fighting the impure: We all know the real enemy aren’t the statists, it’s other so-called libertarians we only agree with 99% of the time. If we dedicate all our time and energy attacking them, we will be assured of a true libertarian paradise when it arrives. NEVER under any circumstances attack socialists – other so-called libertarians are the /real/ enemy

10) Remember that we are always robbed: The only reason Ron Paul didn’t win the last election was a conspiracy. Keep reminding everyone of that. It is obvious that if it were not for the media, Republican Party, and the government overall conspiring against us, Ron Paul would be present. People love hearing this, so make sure you keep repeating it as often as possible.

Once you have mastered these 10 rules, you will truly be a libertarian keyboard warrior.

So congratulations! Go forth into the interwebs, and use these lessons to advance the cause of freedom!

And remember – never actually do anything other than argue online. Because engaging in the political process is the surest road to statism.

Because remember: You can never, ever sleep while someone is wrong on the internet.


Other suggestions I have been given that warrant inclusion here:

” if you find yourself backed into a corner by logic and are unable to argue your way out, the absolute trump card to end all trump cards is: “well I think if we just let the market decide then the market would agree with me.”

“2A) if (God forbid) you break rule 2 and accidentally find your eyes glancing over something you aren’t supposed to agree with, under no circumstances EVER think about what it means. Just understand that it’s wrong and revert to rule 1.”

“I’d rewrite 7 as “the prize for being the purest libertarian is a mobile weaponised seastead, where an elite breeding pair will begin the population of libertopia. Direct all your efforts to demonstrating why you deserve this more than anyone.”


Comparing the Rudd-Gillard vs Abbott legacy

October 22, 2014

In the last week, a number of “internet-libertarians” have made the argument that the Abbott government is worse for liberty than the Rudd-Gillard governments ever were.

While this is perhaps proof of the fact that internet-libertarians are constantly in a state of perpetual outrage against the authority of the day, as well as of the frequently demonstrated phenomenon that political judgements strongly discount the past, it certainly is not a statement that is grounded in any form of reality whatsoever.

Such misinformation is not only inaccurate, spreading it is damaging to the credibility of the liberty movement

As bad as the Abbott government may be, Rudd-Gillard were worse. A lot worse.   (more…)

What Hope Conservatives?

October 11, 2014

It is no secret that my cultural and societal values are somewhat at odds with mainstream contemporary values; I am a traditionalist religious conservative with personal beliefs that are certainly, certainly not what is in vogue in this day and age.

Sadly, I can only see society, from my point of view, becoming worse as decades of taxpayer funded indoctrination campaigns succeed in making acceptable what I, personally, consider utterly mad.

I look at the future, and the prospect of withdrawing from society into an isolated community, homeschooling any potential kids I may have, and just living in isolation from the world, and that option seems really, really appealing.

Except it’s not. Because it’s actually not possible: The all-encompassing nature of our state, the all-powerful Leviathan, doesn’t let us escape.

No isolated community is exempt from laws, no parent (with homeschooling “reforms” now mooted) will be allowed to educate their child as they see fit, there literally is no way to escape, no way to opt-out, no way to live your life as you choose.

THIS is why conservatives should be libertarians – because the only, only way they can possibly escape a big-government agenda is to create a state where they can opt out.

And yet, so many conservatives seek to strengthen the state, to give it more power to control people’s lives, unaware that this power they give it will be used directly against them as the social tides change, as they inevitably will.  (more…)

Iraq, Syria, & ISIS: Foreign Policy & the Hayekian Knowledge Problem

October 10, 2014

I have had few political “Eureka” moments – moments where, in an instant, I realisd the folly of my ways. Drug policy could be considered one, but my shift on foreign policy would is what sticks in my memory the most.

It was not the Iraq war that did it. I admit: Shamefully, I gleefully supported the Iraq war at the time, only later realising the error of my ways. However, my recognition of the error of that particular intervention was a practical one – it was not one that significantly changed the paradigm in which I operate.

Rather, it was a small conflict some time after involving Russia – a relatively minor story in the great scheme of things – that transformed the way I view the world.

Those who know me would know that I am of Russian background, and as such am well versed with not only the history of Russia, but in the mindset of the Russian people, both in the diaspora and at home.

And, watching this particular story unfurl – I was living in the United States at the time – it dawned on me that no-one, no-one in the Administration, no-one in Congress, no-one in the state department, no-one in think tanks, no-one in the media, knew what they were talking about.

An entire industry had developed calling for various foreign policy responses, where not a single person knew a damn thing.

This was a rather confronting prospect for me. Up until that day, I thought that the bureaucrats and academics and journalists actually had a basic grasp of the matters, but no. They say that everyone trusts the media until the day they read a story on a topic they know about. Well, the same applies for foreign policy.

Russia, rather obviously, is not an obscure area for policy wonks in the United States. So if everyone could get Russia, a country they allegedly knew so much about, so wrong – what does that mean for the rest of the world?

If we can’t trust the experts to get Russia right, how can we trust them on anything else?

And I realised – it all comes down to Hayek. (more…)

The Ducking Hypocrisy of Thick Libertarians

December 28, 2013

Visiting any libertarian page or discussion group recently, a reader would be struck by the tension and frequent (rather heated!) arguments between, for lack of better terms, “thick” and “thin” libertarianism. This debate would seem to cut to the very core of what contemporary libertarianism is: is it a doctrine limited to the size and scope of government, or, as the personal is political, is it far broader in scope than that?

Whereas thin libertarianism typically remains limited to more traditional libertarian notions of reducing the size of government, thick-libertarianism seeks to go beyond this.

In a manner reminiscent of the essentially-now-failed to the AtheistPlus movement, thick-libertarianism argues that there must be something more than applying the Non Aggression Principle to governments: As Nathan Goodman has argued, “thickness is any broadening of libertarian concerns beyond overt aggression and state power to concern about what cultural and social conditions are most conducive to liberty”

Critically, however, it is a movement associated not with the FS Meyer or Nesbitt schools of thought, which, drawing from the ideas of Burke, argued that in order for a libertarian society to flourish, a civil society based on traditional values must endure, but quite the opposite. The contemporary thick-libertarian mandate is, in the most part, for libertarians to oppose any and all forms of traditional and social pressures. For if social pressures are coercion, then it is the responsibility of libertarians to oppose them, what ever they may be.

Most often, this presents itself as an imperative for libertarians to oppose social coercion just as vehemently as they do state coercion, often focussing on social pressures as they occur in regards to “slut shaming”, drug use, and racism. To use one of Mr Goodman’s examples “we should vigorously oppose slut shaming and victim blaming in the same way we should oppose any excuses offered for state violence”.

At the core of this philosophy is the notion that “individuals and groups threaten people who “misbehave” as well, with criticism, ridicule, shame, and sometimes complete ostracization” and that this is indistinguishable from state violence. As Cathy Reisenwitz notes in a post that perhaps best exemplifies the thick-libertarian mindset entitled “Shaming Others Is Unjustifiable Coercion”: (more…)

Shame: The Libertarian Imperative

September 12, 2013

Earlier today, Cathy Reisenwitz, a DC based libertarian writer and political commentator, wrote a somewhat controversial piece on shame.

The crux of her argument was that social pressures, particular shame, have no place in a libertarian society and is “unjustifiable coercion”

But individuals and groups threaten people who “misbehave” as well, with criticism, ridicule, shame, and sometimes complete ostracization.

Somewhere we’ve decided that the tools the state uses to influence behavior are “coercion” while the tools non-state actors use are cooperation. Where is the justification for this? I didn’t sign a contract with slut-shamers any more than I did with my government. I may find complete ostracism much more oppressive than a small fine…

But say my actions are completely and totally cooperative, but frowned upon. Maybe I’m doing heroin, or having sex with lots of dudes. What right then does anyone have to coerce me by threatening to criticize, ridicule, shame or ostracize me?

And how is this private coercion any better than public coercion? It is safe to say that those who would criticize, ridicule, shame or ostracize me do not have all of the information I have about my environment and behavior. The same knowledge problem which makes state planning inferior to markets makes other people shaming me into certain behavior inferior to me making decisions separate from that outside threat of shame.

A number of libertarian commentators have critiqued this view. Some have argued from a rights-based position, stating that that the absence of physical intimidation make it inappropriate to classify “shaming” someone as coercion, that there is a large difference between public and private spheres. Others have said that individuals who know other individuals intimately bypass the knowledge problem to a large degree, in the same way that a local shop performs better than a centrally planned distribution board. Some feminists have responded in puzzlement; when feminism depends upon shaming misogynists to force them to alter their behaviour, how can a self-described feminist argue against shame?

These are both valid critiques, however, I would take a slightly different, and no doubt more controversial, approach. I would argue that not only is “shaming” compatible with a libertarian society, it is, in fact, imperative for its success. (more…)